Water Learning Progression

Water Learning Progression

Biodiversity Learning ProgressionVersion: March 1, 2007

1 to 3 / 4 to 6 / 7 to 9 / 10 to 12
1. Socio-cultural perspectives including the role of government
Cultural/Aesthetic Perspectives on biodiversity
Some plants and animals have special meaning to some people. / Plants and animals provide people with enjoyment and a sense of wellbeing. [1]
Different cultures and religions have specific beliefs as to how people should treat other living things. / Cultural preferences and practices can have negative or positive consequences for biological diversity.[2] / Human cultural diversity and biodiversity are linked. The presence of intact indigenous cultures living traditional lifestyles requires an intact functioning ecosystem. These societies are increasingly marginalized as dominant economic practices seek to exploit local resources in an unsustainable manner.
Decision Making and Governance
People can decide if they want to help or hurt plants and animals. / Governments and community organizations use a variety of means to protect plants and animals (humane treatment laws, humane society facilities and activities, hunting and fishing regulations, protection of areas needed by particular plants and animals). / Government, non governmental organizations, community groups, and individuals use a variety of means to protect plants and animals.[3]
The needs of particular plants and animals required in order for them to survive often conflict with short term human needs and actions. Sometimes these conflicts are well known and other times they are not.[4]
People use a variety of means to advance their interests over those of other living things. Decisions made at the government level are subject to the political process. [5]
Social/governmental response to the way new technologies affect other living things including other people lags far behind implementation and as a result often only come into play when serious harm is detected.[6] / The need to protect the world’s biodiversity has been recognized at the international level (Convention on Biological Diversity, World Resources Institute, United Nations Educational, Scientific and cultural organization (UNESCO) )[7]
The loss of the world‘s biodiversity is another example of the “Tragedy of the Commons”. We have not been able to successfully respond to this feature of human activity.
2. Economic and Technological Utility and Impact
Technological Impact on Biodiversity
Before doing or making something we should try to determine how our actions will affect other living things.[8] / Through their ability to invent tools and processes, people have an enormous effect on the lives of other living things. This ability to affect other living things increases with new technological developments. [9] / Technologies can have widespread impact on many plants or animals or only impact a few species.[10]
The use of technology to meet the needs and wants of the increasing human population on the planet is resulting in the loss of many species through deforestation, agriculture, over fishing and urbanization. / Loss of habitat due to climate change is the leading threat to global biodiversity.
Agriculture affects the diversity within a species and biodiversity as a whole.[11]
Technology and Biodiversity –selective breeding, biotechnology
Some plant varieties and animal breeds have more desirable characteristics than others for human use. Through selective breeding, people have changed the characteristics of some plants and animals to meet human needs. [12] / All of the plants and animals that people depend on for food today were once found in the wild.New plants and domestic animals for cultivation have resulted from selective breeding for particular traits.[13]
One of the trade-offs concerning agriculture is that specializing in one crop variety may risk disaster if changes in weather or increases in pest populations wipe out that crop. [14] / New varieties of farm plants and animals (genetically modified organisms) have been engineered by manipulating their genetic instructions to produce new characteristics.[15]
Biotechnology has contributed to human wellbeing in many ways, but its costs and application have led to a variety of controversial social and ethical issues.[16]
Economics –utility and costs of biodiversity loss
The living things of the world provide people with many things including food, clothing, shelter, decoration, and medicine. All of the food we eat comes from plants or animals. Many of these we grow or raise, and some we collect from the wild. / The biodiversity of living things in our area has helped people live here for a long time by providing such tings as food, shelter, and medicine.
When new living things are introduced to an area through human actions (purposeful introductions, associated with trade activity, travel), they can cause many problems (weeds and agriculture, diseases and trees). / Introduction of exotic species can lead to changes in community composition which in turn can affect ecosystem goods or services either by directly reducing abundances of useful species (by predation or competition), or by altering controls on critical ecosystem processes. [17]
The introduction of a new species to an area usually has a negative economic impact.[18]
Biotechnology allows genetic information to be moved from one species to another, a process that does not occur in nature. / In addition to ecological affects, changes in biological diversity often have significant economic impact on a variety of sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, and health.[19]
The majority of species in the world that have not yet been identified, let alone fully understood. Loss of species may mean loss of important but as yet unknown resources for humans.[20]
3. Human Impact on Biodiversity
Human Contributions to Biodiversity
People can help living things (plants and animals, including other people) in many ways directly and indirectly.[21] / Creation of habitat that has been lost (school yard naturalization, naturalized gardening, and removal of invasive species) can increase the number of different species found in an area.[22]
Preservation of local natural areas (woods, old fields, wetlands, etc) allows the plants and animals that depend on these areas to continue to live. / Zoos and botanical gardens and other facilities can participate in captive breeding with the intent of re-introducing the species when habitat problems have been solved through processes such as ecological restoration.[23] / Gene banks and other technological facilities can store genetic material so that it is available as a source for future use and/or re-introductions to the wild.
Human Negative impact on Biodiversity
People often harm other living things indirectly without even knowing it. When people get what they need to live it always has an effect on other living things. / The actions of people can reduce the kinds of living things found in an area directly or indirectly.[24]
Introducing a living thing from another part of the world (alien species) to an area can result in the loss of those species that normally live there (native species)[25] / The historical record indicates that human activity usually results in the loss of species from an area. Human impact has been accelerating as the global population and the rates of consumption (economic activity) have has increased.[26]
When human activity (hunting or harvesting, habitat removal, pesticide applications) results in the change of the types of plants and or animals found in an area (through extinction, extirpation, introduction of a species) the natural community may not function as well.
The major threats to biodiversity are related to habitat loss and degradation, introduction of alien species, over exploitation, pollution and disease, and climate change. [27] / There is a normal change in the species that exist on earth however the scientific community has linked human activity to the accelerated rate of extinctions that are currently occurring and in the recent past.[28]
Human activity resulting in loss of diversity is occurring at the species level and within species. These have different impacts and different meanings. [29]
The human species has a major impact on other species in many ways: reducing the amount of the earth’s surface available to those other species, interfering with their food sources, changing the temperature and chemical composition of their habitats, introducing foreign species into ecosystems, and altering organisms directly through selective breeding and genetic engineering[30].
4. The role of living things within ecosystems
Interdependence of species and resilience as a measure of biodiversity
Plants can affect animals and other plants in many ways.[31]
Animals can affect plants and other animals in many ways.[32] / Every plant and animal depends on other plants and animals in some way (influences how they get food, water, air, soil, or in reproduction, movement etc).[33] / Relationships between organisms vary greatly and may be competitive, mutually beneficial or independent. Some species become so adapted to each other that neither can survive without the other.[34] / Ecosystems are better able to respond to changes and recover when they contain the greatest biodiversity at the genetic, species, and natural community level.
There are only estimates of how many different species there are on the planet. Humans have identified a small number of species on the planet and do not understand all of their ecological roles.
Diversity of ecosystems and change
Different plants and animals are found in those places where they can get what they need to live.[35] / The groups of different living things that are found in different places will be determined by the conditions that exist there. Places that have different physical conditions (amount of water, sunlight, temperature, soil) will have different living things found there. Typical natural communities include wetlands, forest, grasslands, dessert, aquatic, and marine.
Living things cause changes in the environment where they live and these changes will help or hurt other living things found there as well as the organism causing the change.[36] / Succession is the process of change that takes place in a natural community due to the influence of living members of that community on each other. Due to succession an area with one set of physical conditions may have a variety of natural communities moving from less complex to more complex.
The group of organisms found in an area will always change if the physical conditions change.
The ecological health of a natural community can be measured in terms of the variety of living things that are found there. / Ecosystems can be reasonably stable over hundreds or thousands of years. As any population of organisms grows it is held in check by one or more environmental factors: depletion of food or nesting sites, increased loss to increased numbers of predators, or parasites. [37]
Like most complex systems, ecosystems have cyclical fluctuations around a state of equilibrium. In the long run however ecosystems always change when climate changes or when one or more new species appear as a result of migration or local evolution. [38]
Succession is the means by which orderly change occurs as ecosystem communities mature.
5. The Science of the Diversity of Life
Diversity and similarity or relatedness of living things
All living things have similar needs-water, air, food, space, and warmth. Living things are different form non living things in that they can move by themselves, grow, reproduce and eventually die.
Stories sometimes give plants and animals attributes they really do not have. [39] / People group living things to help them understand the world and to make decisions (edible/not edible, poisonous/harmless etc). Features used depend on the purpose of the grouping. [40]
Animals and plants have a great variety of body plans that contribute to their being able to get what they need to live.[41] / Living things have similarities in internal features and patterns of development. The way cells function is similar in all living organisms.[42]
External and internal features are used to group or classify living things. Organisms with similar structures are more related.
Classifications are not a part of nature but a human creation. They are frameworks created by biologists for describing the vast diversity of organisms, suggesting relationships among living things and framing research questions. [43]
Animals and plants have a great variety of body plans and internal structures that contribute to their being able to make or find food and reproduce. [44]
For sexually reproducing organisms, a species comprises all organisms that can mate with one another to produce fertile offspring [45] / All living things have a DNA code made of the same sub units that passes information from parent to offspring [46]
The degree of kinship or relatedness between organisms or species can be determined by the similarity of their DNA sequences. This often closely matches their classification based on anatomical similarities.[47]
Scientists classify living things based on evolutionary relationships. This classification system is not perfect and is always being revised as new life forms are found. [48]
Within a species there is some genetic variation or diversity.
Young are very similar to their parents and each other but not exactly the same.[49]
For any kind of animal or plant – each individual is not exactly the same. [50] / Living things can reproduce in two ways. When there is only one parent, the products are exactly like the source organism (i.e. cutting from a plant are exactly the same as the source plant). In sexual reproduction involving 2 parents, the young are a combination of the features of the parents.[51]
Some likenesses between children and parents, such as eye colour in human beings, or fruit or flower colour in plants, are inherited. Other likenesses, such as people's table manners or carpentry skills, are learned.[52] / Sexual reproduction usually involves two parents, each contributing half the genes of the offspring. In asexual reproducing one living thing provides all the genes.[53]
A fertilized egg cell carrying genetic information from each parent multiplies to form the complete organism.[54] / Genetic information passed from parent to offspring is coded in DNA molecules.[55]
 Heritable characteristics range from internal and external anatomy to biochemistry at the cellular level.
Evolution, Adaptation, Natural Selection and Survival –explaining biodiversity
Different plants and animals have different parts that help them get what they need to live in some places but not others. [56] / Some kinds of plants and animals can live in a particular environment and some cannot. [57]
Individuals of the same kind of living thing show small differences in their characteristics. Sometimes the difference gives the individual an advantage in surviving and reproducing.[58]
One of the most important criteria to group living things is those that make their own food, plants compared to animals which get their food from other living things.[59]
Changes in an organism's habitat are sometimes beneficial to it and sometimes harmful.[60]
Fossils are evidence that many different kinds of living things have occurred on Earth and that these have changed over time.[61] / Small differences between parents and offspring can accumulate over time in successive generations so that descendents are very different from their ancestors. This occurs naturally and is used by people in selective breeding.[62]
All environments are subject to change. When changes occur some individuals in a population are more suited to survive than others. This process is called adaptation.[63]
The fossil record, through geologic evidence, documents the appearance, diversification, and extinction of many life forms.[64] / The basic idea of biological evolution is that the earth’s present-day species developed from earlier, distinctly different species. [65]
Molecular evidence supports anatomical evidence for evolution.[66]
Natural selection provides an explanation and a mechanism for evolution.[67]
Evolution builds on what already exists, so the more variety there is, the more there can be in the future. But evolution does not necessitate long term progress in some set direction.[68]

References for these endnotes are found in the complete Biodiversity theme document.


[1] For many it is simply interesting and enjoyable to see all the different living things that are found around us. Diversity of living things is needed for aesthetic, moral and practical reasons. Summers et al, 2001: 42

[2] Traditional medicines that use the parts of particular wild animals and plants or preference for bush meat in diets may lead to excessive pressures on animal populations. Sense of identification with other living things held by some indigenous cultures may act as a means of controlling exploitation of some populations.

[3]The global environment is affect by national policies and practices relating to ecological management. AAAS, 1993: 177.

[4] Science and technology are essential social enterprises, but alone they can only indicate what can happen, not what should happen. The latter involves human decisions about the use of knowledge National Research Council, 1996: 199.